The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, April 19, 2019

Union contracts supercede medical/sick leave, comp time laws

By Marty Mulcahy, Editor

Michigan's new Paid Medical Leave Act and Workforce Opportunity Wage Act will help tens of thousands of workers in the state enjoy more time off and higher wages.

But the new laws, which went into effect March 29, do not affect workers toiling under a collective bargaining agreement.

That's the word from attorney Sean Crotty, working on behalf of the Honigman law firm. Honigman was approached by the Michigan Building and Construction Trades Council for an opinion on how the two new laws, adopted last fall, will affect the 100,000-plus building trades union members who toil statewide under a collective bargaining agreement.

"In sum, private employers with a CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement) are not required to provide paid sick leave" under the Michigan Paid Medical Leave Act, "but are required to pay overtime rates mandated" by the Fair Labor Standards Act, Crotty wrote in a March 29 letter to Michigan Building and Construction Trades Council President Steve Claywell.

Michigan’s Paid Medical Leave Act was adopted by the state Legislature last year after a ballot proposal on the issue was certified for the November 2018 general election ballot. The law adopted by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Snyder was a weakened version of a proposal that garnered enough signatures to be placed on last November's general election ballot. 

The Republican majorities in the state Legislature basically intercepted the proposal, which they expected to be passed easily by voters on the statewide ballot. According to the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, a leading opponent of the petition effort, the proposal "would have required employers to give all employees 72 hours of no-notice paid sick leave per year and placed severe compliance burdens on employers, including those with paid leave policies currently in place."

The GOP's revised law only applies to employers who employ 50 or more employees, and specifies that employees would accrue one hour of paid sick leave for every 35 hours worked, capped at 40 hours per year. The new law says paid leave time may be taken for physical or mental illness, injury, a health condition, medical diagnosis, care or treatment; or preventative care for either the employee or a member of the employee’s family.

While the law does not affect private sector employees under a collective bargaining agreement, Crotty said the Hongiman firm's interpretation of the law is that workers would be covered if their collective bargaining agreement lapses or expires, and coverage would continue until such time as a new agreement is reached.

The Workforce Opportunity Wage Act, adopted by the state Legislature last September, is another example of state Republican lawmakers intercepting a successful petition drive and creating a less-worker-friendly law before it could go to a vote. 

A major portion of the original act as put forth by the citizens petition drive was a minimum wage hike that would have raised it to $10 an hour this year, gradually up to $12 in 2022, with the wage indexed to inflation beyond that. But the state's GOP lawmakers saw that the petition was likely to be adopted by voters last November, and instead passed a watered-down law that raised the wage by 20 cents to $9.45 this year and delayed the increase to $12 until 2030. The GOP-adopted law offered no raises beyond that that are indexed to the inflation rate.

A lesser-known aspect of the law involves the use of compensatory time. Section 4A of the new Michigan law allows the use of "comp time" in lieu of overtime pay, wherein employers provide employees extra time off from their regular schedule instead of paying overtime rates. However, the federal Labor Standards Act supercedes the state law, and narrows the usage of comp time "only for certain state or local government employees," Crotty writes. "Because virtually all union workers in Michigan are covered by the FSLA, the Michigan statute should not be followed by private employers to provide comp time in lieu of overtime pay."